Blindfold Games: Too Stupid?

During the last week, I received a handful of nasty emails, and politely responded to many of them.

star of mr.robot tv show

Some thought the games are too expensive – I asked a blind colleague to post an article to AppleVis.com explaining the economics and business model for the games.

One person said “Your games are stupid and too easy.  I still refuse to purchase and will prove the point later.”

My only response is that if the games are too easy for you to play, you should invest your time into learning how to program a computer.  Several of the testers for the Blindfold Games are programmers and IT experts, and they can tell you what it’s like.

Building an app is not unlike playing a game, but far harder.  First, you need to conceptualize in your mind how the game will be played, and then you need to turn that into instructions for a computer to follow.  That’s the easy part.

Next, you must ensure the game is playable, and that all the gestures to operate the game make sense, and all game actions are consistent.  That’s a little harder; for example, I maintain a chart on my wall of all of the gestures of each of the games, to make sure they are consistent across games.

Now the fun part – debugging.  There are studies that indicate there are between 15 and 50 defects, called bugs, for every 1,000 lines of code.  My average game has about 10,000 lines of code.   Some of those bugs are easy to find – the app does the wrong thing, and it’s obvious.  Or the app crashes.

Some bugs won’t get found until hundreds of people play the game, and one person encounters unusual situation, such as resuming the game after not using it for weeks, and a new version of the game was just released.  Most of the game behavior can be recorded in the cloud, and I can look at the diagnostics log and investigate what caused the problem.

Finally, you need to keep enhancing the game based on the feedback of dozens of people, all with their own ideas and agendas.  And, if you want the game to be popular, it must have a “wow” factor and “playability”.

The “wow” factor means it must make a good impression in the first 90 seconds.  If it doesn’t, your users will reject it.  Playability means the game is as much fun in 12 months as it is now.  Not all Blindfold Games do that perfectly; but it’s always a goal.

But, to get back to my point, programming an app is much like playing a very complex RPG game.  You need to keep in your head exactly how the game works, what problems may be lurking somewhere, and have the patience and diligence to find and fix problems.

So again, my advice for you, if the games are too simple, learn how to create apps.  It will be challenging, inspiring and exciting, and it may even lead you to a new career.

Advertisements

Why combining games is a bad idea

Many of the comments I’ve read over the past week encouraged me to simply combine the games and follows Apple’s dictum.  The general inclination was that I chose to play in Apple’s world, so I need to follow their rules.

jigsaw puzzle

I’ll talk about the business issues about this later, but combining games is a disservice to many people in the blindness community.  Most of you are so experienced on mobile devices, you may have lost the perspective of people with less expertise, or who have mild mobility restrictions or mild cognitive issues.

Take Blindfold Bop Gesture Game for example.  I created it at the urging of the Braille Institute in Los Angeles.  When I met with Ben, he said they were getting more and more seniors who were losing their vision, and needed a better way to train them.  We discussed the idea for the game, and it’s now being used to first train seniors on a handful of gestures, and then to help people become competent in using all gestures.

Luke, one of the Blindfold Game testers, who is both an IT expert and a teacher of the visually impaired, evaluated Blindfold Bop Gesture, and suggested an alternative main menu that was even simpler.  He wanted a mode for his students where they didn’t even have to use any voice-over gestures in this simpler main menu, but could get to the game easily on their own, after a training session.  I added a simpler menu, and now his students can practice without his assistance.

Consider what happened with Blindfold Word Games.  At the suggestion of some testers, I put five different games into this app when I first released it: Word Ladder, Hangman, Unscramble, a variant of Boggle, and 7 Little Words.  On the main menu, you can scroll through the games to pick the game you want.  However, only first two or three games were ever played, and the other games were rarely evaluated or upgraded.

Initially, I thought only the first three games were fun.  To test this theory, I split off versions of Boggle and 7 Little Words into their own games.  The downloads and upgrades of these two games now matched all of the other games, and that showed me that some people have, as Apple described, a discoverability issue.  If something’s not on the main screen, it’s ignored.  People don’t always scroll down.

The analogy to the discoverability issue is a newspaper.  If the story is below the fold – the place where the newspaper is folded in half – then the story is considered less important.  Even on most websites, people read what’s on the screen when they visit the website, and never scroll down.

Now onto the business issues.

Several of you wondered why combining games would cost money.  In actuality, it would cost time – hundred or thousands of hours – to combine old games into a merged application.  Had I started from the beginning to build the games into groups, it might have had less of an impact, but at this point, it would require restructuring many of the games, changing how the help, settings and upgrades screens work, and how control flows between screens.   I would have to come up with ways to convert your in-app upgrades to the new app because the new app would have a different id in the app store from the original game.  Otherwise, people would have to purchase the in-app upgrades all over again.  And no one would agree to that.  In general, it would unleash a nightmare of unintended consequences.

And those hundreds of hours would simply be lost time – most of the downloads and upgrades occur in the first 3 months.  No one would benefit.  Doing all of the engineering work would result in no new revenue and new no downloads.  That same time could be used to build more games, or work with other programmers to move the games to other devices.

My discussions with Apple on Friday night went through these issues; Apple is keenly aware of accessibility issues and they want the best possible user experience on the iPhone.

Blindfold Games: The games are back!

I received a call from Adam on Friday night, and he said the review team had a chance to look at the Blindfold Games again, and understood why they are separate apps, and that the games can continue.  He mentioned games address a need that’s not normally considered by most app designers, and acknowledged how the games are focused on the needs of the visually impaired community.

New updates will be processed, and new games will be reviewed as before.   I’ll go into more details about the discussion in a blog next week, but I wanted to get the word out to everyone.

I want to thank the everyone for contacting Apple and spreading the word about the games.  I have heard from so many people – far more than I had hoped – telling me how much the games mean to them, and how they appreciate my efforts.  It has meant a lot to me, and I truly thank you.

Have a great weekend!

 

 

#keepBlindfoldGames

For those of you not following this issue: Two weeks ago, Apple rejected 3 updates: Blindfold Hopper, Blindfold Craps and Blindfold Horserace, by saying it violates a new rule of the App Store: apps that vary only by content (such as video or audio or text) must be merged into one app.  I explained that these apps are all different, and that only their menus and settings screens are similar.  I requested a phone call to discuss this further.

Apple’s decision as of Wednesday evening is that unless I merge the 80 Blindfold Games into a handful of apps, they will no longer allow new games to be released or allow updates to be made.  Tap here for details.

One person suggested adding the hashtag #keepBlindfoldGames to all of your tweets and facebook posts. You might pass that on.

I just received a comment asking why a hashtag.  A hashtag is tracked in twitter and Facebook. If thousands of people include that hashtag in their Facebook and twitter posts, then it is considered “trending”, and then more and more people will start talking about it. At some point, TV and radio stations may see the trend and discuss the issue of accessibility on the iPhone.

 

No more Blindfold Games or Updates

For those of you not following this issue: Two weeks ago, Apple rejected 3 updates: Blindfold Hopper, Blindfold Craps and Blindfold Horserace, by saying it violates a new rule of the App Store: apps that vary only by content (such as video or audio or text) must be merged into one app.  I explained that these apps are all different, and that only their menus and settings screens are similar.  I requested a phone call to discuss this further.  Tap here for details on Apple’s rejection.

On Wednesday night, I talked with an Apple representative, and Apple’s decision is that unless I merge the 80 Blindfold Games into a handful of apps, they will no longer allow new games to be released or allow updates to be made.

From a technology perspective, that’s extremely hard and time-consuming.  From a business perspective, that would mean spending hundreds of hours recoding the games, with no possible return-on-investment.  Most of the games generate sales in the first three months of the game being released, and I’ve been building these games for 4 years.

From a usability perspective, that means the main menus would be ridiculously complex, and the settings screens would be confusing and almost unusable.

If you are unhappy with this decision, you can express your opinion to Apple.  The accessibility desk is at accessibility@apple.com or you can call 1-800-MY-APPLE.  Thanks to everyone for enjoying my games.

 

 

Blindfold Games: Insight on disAbility

Michael Gerlach invited me on his podcast and radio show “Insight on disAbility” earlier this week.  From what I learned, he really likes Blindfold Travel Cards, similar to the card game Miles Bornes, and other show hosts like Blindfold Racer and Blindfold Greeting Card.

broadcasting institute of maryland logo

Mike sent me a link to the podcast – I’ve edited it down to about 14 minutes, and you can listen here:

http://www.qormagic.com/blogsounds/insight10-29-2017.mp3

To listen to his radio show podcasts, tap here:

http://www.insightondisability.com/

I would like to thank Mike and the other hosts for spreading the word about Blindfold Games.

 

Apple has no clue (again).

Apple is yet again making it hard for developers to provide games to visually impaired people.  I submitted updates for Blindfold Hopper, Blindfold Horserace and Blindfold Craps today.  All three were rejected because, and I quote:

apple logo

“We noticed that your app appears to be created from a template. Your app provides the same feature set as many of the other apps you’ve submitted to the App Store; it simply varies in content or language.”

I write back:

“There is no commonality between this app and the other apps. Each game is different.  Read the user guide.  The menu format is the same because blind people need a common interface but the functionality is far different.  It would be nice if you evaluated things prior to jumping to conclusions.”

Apple responds:

“Thank you for providing this information. We ask that you consolidate your existing apps, as well as any new apps that you submit, as your app provides the same feature set as other apps you’ve submitted to the App Store, only varying slightly in content or language.”

I write back:

“Each app does not provide features of other apps. Each game is unique unto itself.   For example, of the three you just rejected, one is a game where you walk your fingers on the screen to race horses. The second is the casino game craps. The third is a game similar to the video game frogger.  Did you read the user’s guide before giving me the generic response above?  If you have questions, please contact Jessica @ Apple, and her phone number is 1-669-XXX-XXXX, she knows about these games.”

They reply:

“Thank you for your response.  An Apple Representative will call you on the number provided within the next 3 to 5 business days from today to discuss your app.”

If Apple insists that the 80 Blindfold Games are considered identical because they have the same main menu, which provides consistency for the blind game players, they are doing a disservice to the blindness community.  If Apple doesn’t change its position, I’ll post a phone number and email address to reach Apple, should you want to contact them.

In the meantime, let’s give Apple the benefit of the doubt.

 

Blindfold Games: October Update

There are now over 80 games in the Blindfold Games series. You can visit our website to see the list here:  https://blindfoldgames.org/apps-we-built/

Games are listed with the newest games first.  Click on the game to go directly to the iTunes download page.  All games are designed for rapid audio play and have been built with the help of dozens of visually impaired gamers.  If you are using an iPad when searching for Blindfold Games in the app store, make sure you un-check the setting IPAD ONLY.

Blindfold Millionaire – Who wants to be a millionaire, like the TV show.

Blindfold Sea Battle – Just like Battleship.  Also good for learning grids.

Blindfold Bop Gesture Game – Just like Bop-It, but with gestures.  Greating for learning too.

Blindfold Flappy – Similar to the famous Flappy Bird game

Blindfold Deal or Not – Just like Deal or No Deal.

Blindfold Pyramid Tiles – Tile matching game like mahjong and toodle town.

Blindfold Home Run Derby – Baseball game just like Major League Baseball’s Annual Contest.

Blindfold 3D Tic Tac Toe – Tic Tac Toe but in all three dimensions.

Blindfold Clues – Detective game – who did it and where did they do it.

Blindfold Word Search – Find words in a grid of letters with increasing difficulty.

Blindfold Invaders  – Just like Space Invaders video arcade game, but this is an audio game.

Blindfold Connect  – Just like Connect 4 – get 4 checkers in a row.

Blindfold Feud – Inspired by the TV Game show “Family Feud”.

Blindfold Travel Cards– Be the first player to drive 1000 miles in this card game similar to 1000 miles or Miles Bornes.  Now with car, sailboat and trains.

Blindfold Words From Words – How many words can you create from one word?

Blindfold Oppoly – Inspired by Monopoly.

Blindfold Euchre – Trick-taking card game, much easier than spades.

Blindfold Fireworks – Tap and swipe to conduct your own audio fireworks show.

Blindfold Seven Words – Similar to seven little words.

Blindfold Word Biggle – Inspired by Boggle – Find words in a 5 by 5 grid of letters.

Blindfold Jeopardy Match – Just like TV Game show “Jeopardy”

Blindfold Snakes and Puzzles – Snakes and Ladders but with trivia or arithmetic puzzles

Blindfold Soccer Kick – Soccer – European Football – Kicking and Blocking.

Blindfold Cat and Mouse – Just like Skipbo.  A two player card game similar to  Solitaire, but much easier.

Blindfold Sound Search – More Sound Packs added.  Matching game using Common Animals, Asian Animals, National Anthems, Musical Instruments and Everyday Sounds.

Blindfold Color Crush – Many more gem packs added: A cross between Bejeweled and Candy Crush.

Blindfold Barnyard – New barnyards added: Move your animals from the barnyard to the fence to the barn.  It’s addicting!

Braille Fortune Wheel – Practice your braille contractions. Inspired by Wheel of Fortune, spin to guess a letter or a contraction in the phrase and win.

Blindfold Greeting Card – Create and send your own audio cards to friends and family.

Blindfold RS Games – 21 different multi-player games, played by thousands of people on Windows and Mac, are now available on the iPhone and iPad.

Blindfold Sound Search – Matching game using Common Animals, Asian Animals, National Anthems, Musical Instruments and Everyday Sounds.

Blindfold Basketball – Grab the ball and start shooting.  Great sound effects!

Blindfold Bird Songs – Find that Bird and Match that bird – two great games for learning bird songs.

Blindfold Checkers – Play checkers with easy, medium or expert opponents.

Phrase Madness – Famous as a windows game, now on the iPhone and iPad.  Match the phrases and laugh your socks off.

Blindfold Pinball – Play pinball on diffferent pinball machines.

Blindfold Pool – Play pool by hitting your cue ball into the other balls, and landing them in the pockets.  Hours and hours of fun.

Blindfold Fortune Wheel – Inspired by Wheel of Fortune, spin to guess a letter in the phrase and win.

Blindfold Shuffleboard  – Slide your discs into the scoring area, and push your opponents discs out of the way.

Blindfold Bingo – Play bingo with lots of patterns. Win coins. Record yourself saying Bingo and share it.

Blindfold Crazy Eights with Friends – Crazy Eights card game with with other people, via Game Center or in the same room.

Blindfold Word Games– Hangman, Word Ladder, Scramble and Word Flick.

Blindfold Horse Race– Race against other horses by walking your fingers on the screen.

Blindfold Juggle– Juggle animals on earth and other planets.

Blindfold Rummy – Gin Rummy card game – collect sets and runs of cards.

Blindfold Tile Puzzle – Tile games including 2048 and Threes, with several variations.

Blindfold Vee Ball – Just like Skee ball: Roll a ball up a ramp to land in the highest point hole.

Blindfold Craps – Dice game where you bet on the outcome of a dice roll, just like in Las Vegas.

Blindfold Air Hockey – Air Hockey – use your mallet to shoot the puck into your opponent’s goal.

Blindfold Breakout – Breakout game where you smash bricks with a ball, similar to the arcade game.

Blindfold Bowling – Ten pin bowling just like at the bowling alley.

Blindfold Roulette – Play roulette just like in Las Vegas.

Blindfold Hopper – Inspired by the old video game frogger.

Blindfold Pong – Pong game similar to the classic arcade game.

Blindfold Dominoes -Dominoes game where you play until you are out of tiles or blocked.

Blindfold Hearts – Hearts card game where you avoid collecting hearts or you can shoot the moon.

Blindfold Simon – My Simon type game where you follow patterns based on gestures and sounds.

Blindfold Spades – Spades card game where you bid and collect tricks as you win each hand.

Blindfold War – The classic war card game where you try to collect all the cards.

Blindfold Solitaire – Solitaire card games including Klondike, Spider, Free Cell, Golf and many others.

Blindfold Wildcard – An Uno type card game.

Blindfold Crazy Eights – Crazy Eights card game with several variants of play.

Blindfold Video Poker – Video Poker just like the machines in Las Vegas.

Blindfold Blackjack – Play Blackjack against the dealer.

Blindfold Sudoku – Audio Sudoku in a 9 by 9 grid, with easy, medium and hard levels.

Blindfold Sudoku Mini – Audio Sudoku in a 4 by 4 grid, lots of fun and great for people who never played Sudoku before.

Blindfold Cryptogram – Decode famous quotes and phrases in a letter substitution game

Blindfold Racer – Drive your car using your ears, not your eyes.  The original game that started all of this.

Blindfold Millionaire

Who wants to be a millionaire?  Who doesn’t?

who-wants-to-be-a-millionaire-case

This game was near the top of the list in the recent survey, and I’ve been working on this game for a while.  Blindfold Millionaireis a cross between the TV show and some online variants.  Like Blindfold Jeopardy, it’s a trivia knowledge game; I obtained a set of trivia packs that include general knowledge, geography, flowers, TV/movies, and Christmas.

If you’ve never watched Millionaire, the objective is to win one million dollars by picking the correct of the answers, out of 4 choices, for each trivia question.  If you get it right, you win some cash, and move onto the next question.  If you are wrong, you lose all the cash you’ve won so far, and go home broke.

If you aren’t sure of the answer, you have two options: use a lifeline, or walk away.  You only have three lifelines, so you should save them for when you really need them.  There are three lifelines: phoning a friend, asking the audience, or having a fifty-fifty chance.  When you phone a friend, your friend may or may not be right, but there answer is correct most of the time.  When you ask the audience, they can usually eliminate the obviously wrong answers, but sometimes the audience is wrong.  When you use the fifty-fifty chance, two of the wrong choices will be eliminated.

In the actual game, the first 6 questions are pretty easy.  Since the game doesn’t know how hard each randomly picked trivia question is, we made the Blindfold version  easier by having fewer choices in the first few questions.  Questions 1, 2 and 3 only have two answer choices, and questions 4, 5 and 6 only have 3 choices.

Since the game can’t really phone your friends, Blindfold Millionaire simulates the phone call.  You can pick who you want to call: an athlete, a musician, a scientist and an actor.  Usually the person you call will provide the correct answer; but sometimes, if the question is really outside of their expertise, their answer might be wrong.

The game appears to be as popular as Blindfold Jeopardy, which is one of the most downloaded of all the Blindfold TV games.

To download the Blindfold Millionaire, tap here:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/blindfold-millionaire/id1290923195?ls=1&mt=8

Blindfold Survey Results

We had hundreds of responses to the recent survey: most people have downloaded 26 or more games, and have purchased around 5 games.  More than one third of the survey takers purchased at least 10 games.

checkmark

For the question “What type of game would you like to have more of?”, the most popular categories were board games, sports games, and TV game shows.

For the question “Pick 5 games that you would like to see next”, the leaders were Game of Life Board Game,  Restaurant Game, Mario Brothers, Puppy Care, Name That Song, Golf, Football, 100,000 dollar pyramid and piloting an airplane.  The least requested games were snooker, mastermind peg game, dabble word game and risk board game.

I did get some requests for games I’ve already built: Snakes and Ladders (called Blindfold Snakes and Puzzles), baseball (called Blindfold Home Run Derby), Family Feud (called Blindfold Feud), Trivia games (Blindfold Jeopardy Match), Blackjack (called Blindfold Blackjack), Candy Crush (called Blindfold Color Crush), Concentration (called Blindfold Sound Search), Basketball (called Blindfold Basketball).

To answer other questions:

  • Most of the games do not require earphones.  Only those that use spatial location, like Blindfold Racer or Blindfold Hopper need earphones.
  • Many people asked for multiplayer games.  I launched several a while ago, and they were not popular at all.  That’s why we teamed up with RS Games – they make great multiplayer games.
  • I can build more braille and learning games, but I need a distribution partner to sell those games to schools and T.V.I.s (teachers of visually impaired people).  I haven’t found a distribution partner yet.

Thanks to everyone for your ideas.